twenty six point two
<p>Twenty six point two miles. 26.2. Twenty six, point two. Miles. The distance of a marathon. Long. Far. The New York City Marathon happened today, and my friend Chris ran in it, and collected her medal and space blanket about five hours later. To say I am impressed would be an understatement. </p> <p>People do things like running marathons to prove something to themselves. Interestingly though, Chris’ efforts today had a collateral effect; I discovered that I don’t know shit.</p> <p>I used to run competitively in high school, and even then, the concept of running a marathon never, ever, entered my mind. Too far, too long. Back in the seventies, my Uncle Bob used to be quite the marathoner, and was even the first American finisher in his age group (40-49) in the New York Marathon one year. We used to go into the city to watch him finish, and cheer him on, like so many other New Yorkers do when their friends and family run in this event. We’d go early, and get a good spot along the last mile or so. What I remember from those days is the runners trickling in, in ones and twos. We were watching the leaders, the elite. Uncle Bob would trot past, we’d go ballistic, and then go to find him and his shiny space blanket, and that was it. To me, a marathon was a race against the clock and against the competition. I never thought of it as anything else. </p> <p>Today I realized that of the thirty thousand entrants in this event, only a fraction are in a true race. Today, standing on the sidewalk along Marcus Garvey Park just past the 22 mile marker, I realized that I was watching thousands of dreams being realized, right before my eyes. I’m telling you, I got choked up. Several times. </p> <p>Brenda, Patty and I took the 4 train to 125th street and headed west. A couple blocks later, we arrived at the bank of a flowing human river—the midfield of the New York City Marathon. No ones and twos here. Curb to curb was filled with people of all shapes and sizes, nationalities, sexualities and personalities. We selected this spot to wait and watch for our friend Chris, and we even had a pre-computed time window, where we should expect to see her zip by. We settled in on a choice piece of curb along <a href="http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?mqmap.x=159&mqmap.y=144&mapdata=ULfEtX9%252beHcsmlntam2xw1QPeT537hz4lDTN1BJxFUwmzkRMdkPquy34XgN%252b1FMuBZDsY0xG3EntGX4SIvDQli29HmX1atQpClRX1Tq7AsGKXhyyd0TXz7QFJ%252fecADNauCLjYbX9Il8B5lFQTV2%252fzV0ILwaLE08dyUFp1w8I0j54BiZ7PJz8k%252fVAoNPZYjWSO9VZ7MHBZF73BW16CUd%252bjNWv57nfel3OK3HxTvPVKs4Vj2bDfc0%252fMwHU%252bJFgu2AcmTlFXCYuBJunL9hH7HmOASE%252bu2ifk4hvKk9XbwbAAA%252fPa03RrtXJgerD4dTAitYBS8cvZlROGCf57UTE26AHIg%253d%253d&click=center">west 120th Street, on the south side of Marcus Garvey Park </a> and watched for her. Meanwhile, dreams were being realized, in realtime, right in front of my face. Ten at a time. </p> <p><img src="http://www.rumblestrip.org/site-img/run_you_bastards.jpg" alt="Run, you bastards!!" width="100%" /></p> <p>There were people wearing kilts, wearing flowers, talking on cell phones (yes, actual race entrants were on the goddammned phone). There were guys in drag. One guy was dressed as Elvis, and chants of “Go Elvis!” were heard up and down the block. There were people carrying flags, of many nations. There was NYFD heraldry. A shirt said “for dad”. Many of them had their names scrawled on their shirts or on their legs, in large letters. They seemed to say “Hi, my name is Jeff, and for the love of God, will you please move your lazy asses to clap and cheer for me, for I am seriously fucking tired right now”. We clapped. Brenda was busy giving stats, like how there were only four miles to go, and looking at it another way, they had completed over 80% of the race. She was shouting these stats to the runners, bless her heart.</p> <p>These people were here to prove something: to themselves, to a fallen comrade, a parent, a child, whatever. Each person had a story, and they were zipping past me ten at a time. I felt small. I was so happy for all of these people. It was truly awesome. I should mention that at this point, with 22 miles under their belts, the effort was beginning to show. I was dizzy trying to take it all in and yet not get distracted by one particular character too much, for fear of missing my friend Chris. </p> <p>“THERE SHE IS!! (ooh, where, where?) ... just kidding.” Yeah, I did that; I’m an asshole. What can I say.</p> <p>Eventually—and within the pre-computed time window, I might add—Chris did appear, her twin pigtails bobbing and waving, and we all went nutso. She stopped to walk a bit, and we walked along with her, excitedly chatting her up. She was tired, you could tell. But at the end of the block, she would hit Fifth Avenue, and then a right turn and it was south to 59th Street; the home stretch. Nothing would stop her now.</p> <p>After she trotted off, we three walked down to the finish area to find Chris. I realized that the thousands of people streaming past us as we walked to the park were people that Chris BEAT, but I’m supposed to say that’s not the point. We met up with a few of our other friends who were scattered around at strategic points along the course today, and waited. Eventually, Chris showed up. Cheers all around. Group hugs. Photos. And then, to begin the journey home, the chariot of champions: the 2 train. Chris wanted to go home, and who could blame her. </p> <p>If you want a replay of my friend Chris’ day, go to:</p> <p>http://www.ingnycmarathon.org/training/simulation.html</p> <p>... and enter “Frietchen” in the name field. You will see her—represented as a dot—run through the five boroughs. A very cool Java application. You can even pit her against winners, or one of the many people who had their asses handed to them by Chris Frietchen. But that’s not the point.</p> <p><img src="http://www.rumblestrip.org/site-img/perp_walk.jpg" alt="Perp Walk" width="100%" /></p> <p>Getting off at Times Square where we all had various train changes to make, Chris, well, she passed out ever so briefly. I guess the adrenalin had run its course. Ten tense seconds passed, while chocolate was shoved in my face by a Frenchman. “Here, geev her some chock-oh-laht”. But, after a banana and some water she was good as new, and a phone call to her later at home confirmed that all was well. She was awaiting a celebratory order-in dinner with Gary, and was chatting away. </p> <p>Like I said, I don’t know shit. But now I know a little more. I still don’t think I could or would do what Chris did, but now I understand why so many people do it each year. </p> <p><H2>Congratulations Chris, you did it!</H2></p> <p><img src="http://www.rumblestrip.org/site-img/finisher.jpg" alt="Chris Frietchen, NYC Marathon Finisher" width="100%" /></p>
lighting simulationist, crossfitter, former drinker.